MEASURING TRAFFIC IN OUR WARD

It is some years since we have last had an exercise to measure the volume and speed of traffic in our Ward. The last time this happened it enabled us to introduce some measures to calm traffic in Cavendish Road. From Monday 19th February these tubes, integral to traffic measurement equipment, have appeared in many local roads at the eastern end of the Ward. The tubes will collect data for seven days on the volume, speed and classification of vehicles. It is hoped that data will be collated by the end of March and the implications can be considered.

SETTING UP THE “FRIENDS OF THE DEVONSHIRE AVENUE NATURE AREA”: WOULD YOU LIKE TO JOIN?

We are working with Sutton Council to set up a Friends of Devonshire Avenue Nature Area group.

Would you like to join it? The nature area is the only open space in our Ward, in an area where many children live in flats without access to a garden. As it is the only open space in our Ward it is precious to us. It is a nature area so requires careful management.

We have secured funding for improvements to the nature area – to the signage and the seating and to clean off the graffiti. On 18 October last year the three Councillors met with several Council officers from the Parks Department at the Nature Area to discuss improvements to the area, and we subsequently took proposals to the local committee to obtain funding for improvement work. On 23 January we met with the volunteers from Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers who were engaged in necessary maintenance activities at the site. There is discussion about how to best use the area, protect biodiversity (such as the rare “ivy broomrape” which is found in the nature area) while keeping it well used by residents, reduce litter and graffiti, and whether it should be locked at night. Please contact us with your views and to join the Friends group.

FURTHER MEETING OF THE POLICE CONSULTATIVE PANEL

Our police station in Carshalton Road

The Sutton South Ward Police Consultative Panel met on the evening of 10 January 2024. These are open, public meetings all residents can attend. We were addressed by our Ward Constable, Constable Robyn Skivens and her colleague Constable Owen Harding. This meeting was much better attended than the previous meeting, held in October, with 17 residents attending.

During the period from October there had been 4 burglaries in the Ward, a significant drop from the figure of 21 burglaries during the previous quarter reported to the meeting held in October. There had been 10 incidents involving motor vehicles, including 4 thefts of vehicles and 6 thefts from vehicles. Interestingly, for the third quarter running there had been no catalytic converter thefts. The important advice from the police is not to leave anything valuable in your car and be careful to check it is locked when you leave the car. The police always stress the need to report all crime, however trivial.

Constable Skivens commented on the number of “extractions” that occur, when she and Constable Harding are asked to leave Ward duties and assist in activities elsewhere. This reduces attention to Ward matters. Concern was expressed at the meeting on the level of police resources, since the entire Sutton South team consists of Constables Skivens and Harding plus one PCSO.

There was a wide ranging discussion at the meeting, topics including the extent of drug use and dealing in the area, domestic violence, modern slavery, antisemitic incidents and the need to police the synagogue in our Ward, the availability of knives, the number of young people carrying knives, and the important role of our schools. The police commended the work of the Street Pastors who can sometimes get a better reaction from people than a police officer in uniform can. The police thought that insofar as there is a drugs problem locally it is possession and use rather than growing cannabis and/or drug dealing. At some schools locally there are metal detectors at school gates and there is a “knife box” in the car park of M and S in Sutton where people can deposit knives anonymously.

Our police officers were commended for attending the Sutton South Hello Christmas party on their day off.

The next meeting was provisionally arranged for Wednesday 24 April at Devonshire Avenue school.

Louise, Trish and Richard with our Ward police officers at the Sutton South Hello Christmas party

ADVANCES IN OUR WARD

We are always seeking ways to improve the quality of life locally. The defibrillator installed in Brighton Road outside Northumberland House, pictured above, is a potentially important facility, but we were disturbed to learn that the one at the railway station a few hundred metres north of this location has been stolen. Action is in hand to replace it.

Many new street trees have been planted in the Ward including, in the recent period, new trees in Farm Road, Devonshire Avenue, Effingham Close, Prior Avenue and Kayemoor Road, adding to the pleasant, green, suburban feel of our Ward. We are delighted that the tree that had to be felled in Brighton Road, outside Northumberland House, as it was diseased, has been replaced, thanks to funding we obtained from the Council’s Public Realm budget.

The fencing in The Quadrant, nearby, which had become damaged has been repaired, also with funding we obtained from the Public Realm budget.

In addition, Sutton Council was delighted to be successful in obtaining funding to upgrade rail services to Belmont Station. The funding will allow train services to double from two to four trains per hour and will also facilitate improvements to the station. This will improve transport to the Cancer Hub.

MORE APPLICATIONS FOR EXTRA STOREYS

The owners of Harrow Lodge, 28 Eaton Road, are seeking planning permission to extend the building – adding a storey to the top of the building, with some other changes. This will add 10 new flats to the building. In Mulgrave Road the owners of The Rowans, 47 Mulgrave Road, have submitted a similar planning application to add 8 new flats by adding two storeys to the top of the building. This is a current trend – to add extra storeys to the top of blocks of flats.

As your local Councillors, we are concerned about these proposals, which some see as making the buildings look incongruous, but we always seek the views of residents. While there is a need for more accommodation, these changes will involve building work that will impact on residents. The applicants have both used a device in national planning law known as “Prior Approval” which means that Councillors cannot take the application to the Council’s Planning Committee. We consider that this procedure was introduced to undermine the planning system. We may not be able to stop these changes taking place, particularly given the powers of the Planning Inspectorate to over-ride local decisions. However we are seeking to ensure that conditions are stipulated in any planning permission, if it is ever granted, to protect the peace and quiet of the residents during construction work. These include that access to the roof should be via an external hoist, the interior of the building should not be a storage area or building site, there should be a construction management plan, the contractors should join the Considerate Contractors’ Scheme, and there should be a liaison officer residents can contact. If scaffolding is erected it should only be erected when needed and removed as soon as it is not needed.

A similar application for extra storeys on the roof of the building at Chelsea Court in Mulgrave Road has been turned down. And a similar application in relation to Magnolia Court in Grange Road has been withdrawn in the light of local opposition.

We welcome feedback on your views on planning proposals. You can see the details and comment on planning applications via the Sutton Council website (go to the section on planning) or comment by post to

Development Management, Civic Offices, St Nicholas Way, Sutton, SM1 1EA.

NEW HOMES LOCALLY TO MEET THE HOUSING CRISIS

On 30 November Richard and Trish sat as members of the Council’s Planning Committee, with Richard chairing the meeting, to consider the fate of the B and Q site in central Sutton. This is just outside our Ward. B and Q plan to close the store next June. Richard commented that, though he is no do-it-yourself fanatic, he regretted the closure of the store, but B and Q say it no longer makes them money and they have decided to close.

It is inevitable that the site will be developed as housing. There is no demand for new office space (more people work at home) or new shops (more people shop using the internet) but there is a housing crisis. On the day of the discussion 970 Sutton families were homeless and living in bed and breakfast accommodation, at the expense of the Council and thus our Council tax payers. More homes are desperately needed. The philosophy in the Sutton local plan is to meet our housing targets partly through a more intensive area of development close to the town centre and near the railway station. As public transport links are good in this area it is possible to envisage a car free or “car light” development – if you have to provide a parking space for every house many fewer homes can be built. This reduces development pressure on the borough’s suburban heartland and Green Belt areas. Planning Committee often considers proposals to build on the Green Belt which we resist, but the new homes must go somewhere. The more intensive development in the town centre will inevitably include some tall buildings, and there is a cluster close to the railway station.

Evidence was presented to the committee on action taken to deal with some of the consequences of this development, such as a need for places in local schools, demands on health services and additional strain on water and sewage systems. Richard commented that there were attractive features to the proposed development, 60% of which would be open space, including an area of public parkland, a water feature, an amphitheatre and terraced roof gardens. The most important aspect, though, was the plan for 337 “affordable” homes where Sutton Council can place the most deserving of the 2 600 families on the housing register. This will include families that are homeless or those we meet, in our Ward, who are living in dreadful housing circumstances – sometimes families with three or four children living together in tiny flats.

The planning application was approved. Initially all that local people will observe is the closure of the store, hoardings put up round the site and the store demolished. Then there will be building work but it will be several years before anyone moves in. Eventually, it will be an attractive, landscaped site. On the website

www.chalkgardens.co.uk

there is a video of a walk through a CGI representation of what the final product will look like.

OUR CAMPAIGN OPPOSING THE CLOSURE OF THE TICKET OFFICE AT SUTTON STATION IS SUCCESSFUL

As local Councillors, we responded to the consultation exercise on the closure of ticket offices in local train stations. The closure of the ticket office at Sutton station, which is in our Ward, was threatened. We responded to the consultation opposing this move.

We drew attention to instances where family members were able to get a cheaper deal on tickets than they could have got buying tickets over the internet by getting the advice of the staff at the ticket office. Having staffed ticket offices is essential to giving people advice on travel. People need advice on travel when they arrive at the station. Having these staff wandering around the station means you will not find them when you arrive at the station. There are particular difficulties for those who are partially sighted or disabled.

The consultation was, after an outcry over the limited nature of the consultation proposals, extended to 1 September. The decision has now been taken not to proceed with the closure plan but we will monitor the situation as effective closure of the ticket office by stealth, in particular the progreesive reduction of the hours of opening, is entirely possible.

“COMMUNITY WALKABOUTS” AT KINGSLEE AND THORN COURTS, SUTTON COURT AND BEAUCLERE HOUSE

On 21 September Richard attended a “Community Walkabout” organised by Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) at Kingslee Court and Thorn Court in Worcester Road. These events are organised to provide an opportunity for residents to raise issues of concern with SHP staff. SHP’s Chief Executive and senior SHP staff attended. A high proportion of the residents are leaseholders and many took part. The residents said they appreciated the recent re-location of the refuse bins and the re-painting of the entrance gate. Some “snagging” arising from the recent renovation work on the buildings was noted and various other concerns of the residents explored.

On 19 October all three Councillors attended similar “Community Walkabouts” at Sutton Court and at Beauclere House, in Brighton Road. These were again well attended by residents. A wide variety of issues were raised including the use of the garages, parking, dealing with anti-social behaviour and lighting. These exercises were thought to have been very useful by those who took part. The photo shows the group at Kingslee Court.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR SUTTON: PLANNING APPLICATION IN MULGRAVE ROAD TURNED DOWN

The owner of Chelsea Court, 54 Mulgrave Road has had planning permission to extend the building – in effect adding two extra floors to the block of flats – refused by Sutton Council. This was the latest in a series of applications in our Ward where owners of blocks of flats have sought to extend the building upwards.

As local Councillors, we were concerned about these proposals. While there is a need for more accommodation, the changes to the building would in our view make it look incongruous, not good enough for Sutton. The block is an attractive architect-designed building (see photo), one of the more attractive blocks in Mulgrave Road, and the proposed changes would destroy the symmetry of the building. The Planning Department at Sutton Council agreed with our objections. The changes would also have involved building work that would greatly disturb the current residents of the block.

The owners used a mechanism called “prior approval” when submitting their planning application. This mechanism, in our view, was introduced by the Government to undermine the planning system. As a result, we could take the application to the Council’s Planning Committee, which Richard chairs, for decision by Councillors. We may still not be able to stop these changes taking place given the powers of the remote Planning Inspectorate based in Bristol to over-ride local decisions.

We always seek to ensure in such cases that a number of conditions are stipulated in any planning permission, if one is ever granted, to try to protect the peace and quiet of the building during construction work. These include that access to the roof should be via an external hoist with all materials for work on the roof transported to the roof by an external hoist and not brought up via the well of the building. The interior of the building should not be a storage area or building site. There should be a construction management plan to minimize disruption to existing residents and ensure there are controls on dust and noise, and on hours of work. The contractors should join the Considerate Contractors’ Scheme. There should be a liaison officer that residents can contact if they observe poor behaviour. If scaffolding is erected outside residents’ windows it should only be erected when needed and removed as soon as it is not needed.

We have successfully opposed this development but wait to see if the developer will appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against the decision of the Council.

A VISIT TO CITY HALL TO PRESENT SUTTON’S PETITION OPPOSING THE EXTENSION OF ULEZ

Louise, Richard and Trish travelled to City Hall, the HQ of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, on 30 June to join other Sutton Liberal Democrat Councillors in presenting a petition to the Mayor. The petition, signed by over 10 000 Sutton residents, expressed our opposition to the extension of the ULEZ zone to outer London boroughs. Our views on why we opposed the extension of ULEZ can be found in posts further down this site.

Despite our opposition, ULEZ has now been extended by the London Mayor to outer London.